Lynchburg Fire Department's new program calls on bystanders to help save lives with CPR

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) The Lynchburg Fire Department is working to fight back against a statistic that affects many families in our hometowns. Over 90 percent of people who suffer a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital do not survive.

"He said the next thing he remembers is ‘Hey, Maxey just passed out’ and I was hanging out on the bleachers,” said Maxey Wilkerson, a cardiac arrest survivor.

What happened next was a complete shock for Wilkerson. The former, and still very active, basketball player went into cardiac arrest.

“The report said ‘patient status was no pulse, no breathing death," said Wilkerson.

But first responders and doctors say Wilkerson is lucky. His friends automatically stepped in and started compressions. EMTs were only two minutes away. People spared not time to step into help. That is not usually the case.

Lynchburg Fire Department responds to emergencies in six minutes or less 90 percent of the time. While that is a good response time, sometimes distance and time are barriers that can’t be moved when responding to cardiac arrest.

The LFD is working to remove that barrier with help from citizens. They’ve adopted a smartphone app program called Pulse Point.

“A mobile app for your smart phone that will notify citizen responders if there is a cardiac arrest,” said Acting Deputy Fire Chief Heather Childress, who has been spearheading the project for the city.

So as EMTs start packing up to respond to a cardiac arrest, anyone with the app who is within a quarter mile of the patient would receive a notification to come help.

“Time is the most important thing, it's important to get compressions started and get the blood circulating again,” said Firefighter/EMT Sam Young.

Not only will you receive a notification that it’s happening near you, but the app will also let you know where the nearest AED is and give step by step directions.

“If you're at the mall and someone around the corner from you had a cardiac arrest this just allows someone to have an opportunity to help,” said Childress.

The city pays $8,000 a year for the program, but the app is free. All you have to do is subscribe to “Lynchburg Fire” and you will be notified next time you can help save someone’s life.

You don’t even need to be CPR certified, just trained. The idea is that doing something is better than doing nothing. LFD will also use the data from the app to fit their CPR training to different areas of the community.

The hope is to have more positive stories like Wilkerson’s.

“I wouldn't be here if it weren't for other people,” said Wilkerson.

“I mean, he's going to be home with his family for Christmas. It's amazing,” said Childress. “You really can't put words to it, to be honest.”